Characteristics of the Gifted Child

Common Characteristics of Gifted Individuals

Because gifted children are so diverse, not all exhibit all characteristics all of the time. However, there are common characteristics that many gifted individuals share:

  • Unusual alertness, even in infancy
  • Rapid learner; puts thoughts together quickly
  • Excellent memory
  • Unusually large vocabulary and complex sentence structure for age
  • Advanced comprehension of word nuances, metaphors and abstract ideas
  • Enjoys solving problems, especially with numbers and puzzles
  • Often self-taught reading and writing skills as preschooler
  • Deep, intense feelings and reactions
  • Highly sensitive
  • Thinking is abstract, complex, logical, and insightful
  • Idealism and sense of justice at early age
  • Concern with social and political issues and injustices
  • Longer attention span and intense concentration
  • Preoccupied with own thoughts—daydreamer
  • Learn basic skills quickly and with little practice
  • Asks probing questions
  • Wide range of interests (or extreme focus in one area)
  • Highly developed curiosity
  • Interest in experimenting and doing things differently
  • Puts idea or things together that are not typical
  • Keen and/or unusual sense of humor
  • Desire to organize people/things through games or complex schemas
  • Vivid imaginations (and imaginary playmates when in preschool)

Webb, J., Gore, J., Amend, E., DeVries, A. (2007). A parent's guide to gifted children.Tuscon, AZ:  Great Potential Press,


Traits of Giftedness

No gifted individual is exactly the same, each with his own unique patterns and traits.   There are many traits that gifted individuals have in common, but no gifted learner exhibits traits in every area.  This list of traits  may help you better understand whether or not your child is gifted.





Keen power of abstraction

Interest in problem-solving and applying concepts

Voracious and early reader

Large vocabulary

Intellectual curiosity

Power of critical thinking, skepticism, self-criticism

Persistent, goal-directed behavior

Independence in work and study

Diversity of interests and abilities

Creativeness and inventiveness

Keen sense of humor

Ability for fantasy

Openness to stimuli, wide interests



Independence in attitude and social behavior

Self-acceptance and unconcern for social norms


Aesthetic and moral commitment to self-selected work

Unusual emotional depth and intensity

Sensitivity or empathy to the feelings of others

High expectations of self and others, often leading to feelings of frustration

Heightened self-awareness, accompanied by feelings of being different

Easily wounded, need for emotional support

Need for consistency between abstract values and personal actions

Advanced levels of moral judgment

Idealism and sense of justice


Boundless enthusiasm

Intensely focused on passions—resists changing activities when engrossed in own interests

Highly energetic—needs little sleep or down time

Constantly questions

Insatiable curiosity

Impulsive, eager and spirited

Perseverance—strong determination in areas of importance

High levels of frustration—particularly when having difficulty meeting standards of performance (either imposed by self or others)

Volatile temper, especially related to perceptions of failure

Non-stop talking/chattering

Source:  Clark, B. (2008). Growing up gifted (7th ed.)   Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Pearson Prentice Hall.


Public School Review: 10 Characteristics of the Gifted Child

 Updated  June 12, 2017 92
10 Characteristics of the Gifted Child

Is your child gifted?

We’ll explore ten of the most common characteristics of gifted children and how schools assess whether students qualify for gifted programs.

The term “gifted” has been thrown around in public education circles for decades – often misused, misdiagnosed and misunderstood. Gifted children may present in various ways; some are positive characteristics and some, are not as desirable. When determining giftedness in a student, it is essential to take a number of factors into consideration, since not all gifted children will exhibit the same characteristics at the same time. This list offers 10 of the most common characteristics seen in gifted students.

Verbal Ability

Gifted children often begin communicating verbally at an early age, and they use vocabulary far beyond their age. These children are often referred to as “precocious” because of their language usage. The website for Amend Psychological Services list some of the verbal features of gifted children as “avid storytellers,” early talkers or those with and extensive and precise vocabulary. These children often choose their words carefully, but tend to use a lot of them. They can also get frustrated with children in the same age group who are unable to understand them and often turn to older children or adults for conversation.


Information Processing states that gifted children often have an “unusual capacity for processing information” and are often able to process that information more quickly and accurately than their peers. These children typically master subjects like reading and math much more quickly than their peers, which can make it difficult to keep them challenged in a regular school setting. Bright Hub Education explains that some gifted children become disruptive in classrooms – often because they are bored with the material that is taught over and over again.
High Curiosity Level
Gifted children often have a high curiosity level and dive into subjects with a passion not seen in most children their age. Amend Psychological Services says it is not unusual for a gifted child to learn the names of all the dinosaurs or the stats for every player on a baseball team at a very young age. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center calls this characteristic a “deep absorption in activities that interest them,” and parents of gifted children learn quickly just how saturated that absorption can go, when they have to take a child to the library or help them find facts on the Internet over and over again.  
Memory Retention
Gifted children are often able to retain information faster and for longer periods of time than average children of the same age. Their rapid learning ability allows them to process facts quickly and retain them for efficient recall later on. High memory retention combined with fast information processing often means these children learn subjects at a rapid-fire rate that can make it challenging for parents and teachers to present information to gifted children as fast as they like.
Intensity and Persistence
Many gifted children are intense in the way they learn, which is often why they pick up large amounts of information so quickly. They can also be intense socially, with acute sensitivity to the needs and feelings of others, according to These children are able to show compassion to others at a much deeper level than other children their age. However, the intensity and persistence can also work against a gifted child on occasion, when the child encounters a problem he cannot easily solve or a topic he cannot seem to master as quickly.
Sense of Humor
Gifted children are enjoyable to be around because many exhibit a sense of humor that goes well beyond their years. Bright Hub Education states that these children often have a special appreciation for more subtle types of humor like satire. They also enjoy plays on words, such as puns, and are particularly adept at using these comic techniques themselves. Whether their sense of humor comes out in their conversation or their writing, these students can be a joy to converse with.
Sense of Justice
Gifted children often have an acute sense of justice, which can translate to high expectations of themselves and others. While their strong moral compass can make them effective leaders, and ensure good choices in many situations, this characteristic can also make it difficult for them to forge long-lasting relationships with others. These children often become interested in justice and fairness at a very early age, which continues throughout their lives.
Strong Imagination
Gifted children often exhibit a strong imagination, with an ability to spin tales that parents and teachers do not necessarily expect. says these children often show originality in their oral, written or artistic expression and are viewed as highly creative. Gifted children may spend time fantasizing, and are often categorized as independent thinkers.
Keen Observation
Children who fall into this group may have the ability to pick on details much more acutely than other children in the same age bracket. Whether reading a book, watching a movie, gifted students often notice seemingly nonessential pieces of information that others might miss. Their attention to detail often results in long, drawn out renditions of situations or conflicts – a frequent source of frustration for parents and teachers at times.
Problem Solving Capabilities
Often perceived as effective problem solvers, gifted children typically relish nothing more than breaking down a complex issue and finding a solution that no one else has every thought of. These children, according to, have an “advanced cognitive and affective capacity for conceptualizing societal problems” – the potential leaders of the future.
Labeling a child as “gifted” is a somewhat complex process that involves careful observation and objective testing in most cases. While this list is not an exhaustive one, it does provide insight into some of the most common characteristics of gifted children to help teachers and parents know whether further assessments are warranted.

Hoagies Gifted Education Page:

Characteristics of the Gifted Child

The gifted child can exhibit many unique characteristics, or none at all.  And even those who seemingly exhibit none of these characteristics may feel many of them, hidden just below the surface.  And the effort it takes to continue hiding is often exhausting.  If you're looking for characteristic checklists, visit Identification of Gifted Children.


From Sensitivities to Perfectionism, from the Underachiever to the Impostor, all of these characteristics are commonly found in many gifted children.  And commonly cause concern, among their parents and teachers.


Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration and Overexcitabilities (OEs) are often attributed as characteristics of gifted children.  Visit the Dabrowski's Overexcitabilities (OE's) for information, research and even a lesson plan on these theories!


Everyone is concerned about the Social and Emotional well-being of the gifted child, but many teachers and parents disagree about the best ways to facilitate healthy social and emotional development in the gifted child.  Nature and Gifted Children supports the correlation between healthy children, especially gifted children, and time spent out-of-doors in nature.


And like other characteristics of gifted children, the social-emotional aspects of life often seem extreme.  When you need more information, Depression and Suicidecan help provide resources and information, but first and foremost, seek professional help.  Grief & Mourning can also be very strong emotional reactions in gifted children; these books and resources can help you through difficult times.


Learning Styles vary from individual to individual, but the majority of children and the majority of educators share a common learning style.  Some gifted children have very unique learning styles, which further differentiates them from other children, and further frustrates the relationships between teacher and student..  Visual-Spatial Learners often cause great concern to the classroom teacher, and the parent at home.


Personality Type is another variable to consider.  Is the ratio of introvert to extravert personalities higher in the gifted population than in the general population?  How do the personality factors affect our lives?


Young Gifted Children present special challenges, because they are sometimes not yet able to explain the differences they feel, and the pressures and priorities of being a gifted child.  Gifted Adolescents often find they don't fit as gifted children, gifted adults, or "normal" adolescents.  Highly Gifted Children often present an entirely different set of characteristics; sometimes they can be simplified by just saying they are "More!"  And Gifted Adults... do they exist?  Yes!


What We Have Learned About Gifted Children 1979-2007 gives a concise summary of those characteristics noted in clinical study of gifted children at the Gifted Development Center... some are intuitive, some may come as a surprise!


Don't miss the view of a parent from her childhood, in "I Remember," or another parent looking at her own child, now, in "Musings on our report card."  "We Call Her Chameleon...Recommended is a two-sided look at the childhood of a highly gifted child...  this one's a Don't Miss!

Common Traits and Characteristics of Gifted Children

Gifted youth have distinct cognitive and social features

Updated November 05, 2017

What are the traits and characteristics that make gifted children stand out from their peers? Identifying these unique cognitive, social, emotional and linguistic traits isn't necessarily difficult. In fact, to the trained eye, it can be fairly easy to spot a gifted child. Even to the not-so-trained eye of a parent, it's easy to notice that a child is not quite like other children.


Still, parents often question what these differences mean.



Such testing may not be as reliable in young children, so parents of small children, such as toddlers, can review the list of common traits found in young gifted children.


Cognitive Traits That Signal Giftedness

Is your child very observant, extremely curious or prone to having intense interests? Then, he might be gifted. Think about whether your child notices things that fellow children, or even adults, would overlook. That's a sign of being observant. And if your child annoys you by constantly peppering you with questions about everything from whey he has to eat a particular meal to why there's war in the world, you might have a gifted kid on your hands.


Consider how passionate your child is about his interests as well. When he gets a new hobby can he spend hours on it? Does he seem to think or talk of nothing else? This indicates intense interest.


Other cognitive traits that make gifted children stand out include having an excellent memory, long attention span, excellent reasoning skills and well-developed powers of abstraction, conceptualization, and synthesis.



And if your child has an unusual or vivid imagination that sometimes lands him in hot water, consider that another sign of giftedness.


Social and Emotional Traits

Gifted children stand out from their peers by developing interests in philosophical and social issues. They are also very sensitive, both emotionally and physically. They may cry over things that other children shrug off or complain about tags in their clothes or the seams in their socks irritating their skin.


In addition, gifted children exhibit deep concern about fairness and injustice. They tend to be perfectionistic, energetic and have a well-developed, if not quirky, sense of humor. They are usually intrinsically motivated, meaning they set goals and challenges for themselves rather than to get the approval of others. While they may relate well to parents, teachers, and other adults, they also question authority out of curiosity or when they believe an injustice has occurred.

The language traits of gifted children set them apart as well. They tend to have extensive vocabularies and may read earlier than their peers. Even if they read at the standard age, they tend to read rapidly and widely. They also love to ask "what if" questions.


Additional Traits of Gifted Children

The gifted child enjoys learning new things. She enjoys the intellectual activity and displays intellectual playfulness. She'll likely prefer books and magazines meant for older children and adopt a skeptical, critical and evaluative attitude. Gifted children tend to have ​asynchronous development, meaning they may be mentally very astute but emotionally react to situations like a child their age, or even younger, would.


Does Your Child Have These Traits of Giftedness?

Gifted Children Often Share These Ten Traits

Intelligent little bookworm / Getty Images

Types of Giftedness

First, it's important to understand that giftedness is not just a matter of academic achievement.

  • Intellectual
  • Creative
  • Artistic
  • Leadership
  • Academic

Thus, even if your child isn't an academic whiz, he may be gifted in other areas. While schools are most likely to be interested in intellectual and academic giftedness, parents should be supportive of their child's creative, artistic, or other gifts. These may become increasingly important as your child moves into higher grades or starts a career.


Tests for Giftedness


While "quick tests" (like the one below) may provide you with insights into your child's abilities, they aren't true tests for giftedness. Once a child has been identified as possibly gifted, she will go through a variety of carefully developed, benchmarked tests to determine whether and to what degree she is truly above average. Some of these tests may include:


  • Standard IQ tests
  • Non-verbal IQ tests
  • Achievement tests


Results of these tests, administered by trained professionals, provide schools with the information they need to place, educate, and challenge your child.


Checklist of Traits of Gifted Children


Gifted children don't always behave in the ways you'd expect. For example, many gifted children appear to be "daydreaming" in class, while others may have a hard time controlling their tempers. As a result, they may not be classroom stars; in fact, they may be in trouble more often than not!

You can answer the following questions and see how many of the behaviors apply to your child. Remember, though not all gifted children are alike, so not every gifted child will have all of these behaviors, but if some of these behaviors sound familiar, you might want to learn more about gifted kids!
  1. Talk a blue streak, using an unusually high vocabulary
  2. Ask a lot of questions
  3. Appear unusually sensitive to injustice or unkindness
  4. Wear you out with her endless questions
  5. Exhaust you with his seemingly boundless energy
  6. Get frustrated because her work is less than perfect
  7. Get totally absorbed in activities and thoughts
  8. Prefer to work independently rather than in a group
  9. Find it difficult (or undesirable) to conform to others' expectations
  10. Have an unusual level of interest in classifying and organizing objects or ideas

I Think My Child Is Gifted; Now What? 

If the above checklist describes your child, you may want to consider having him screened or tested for giftedness.

Meanwhile, though, if your child is also having difficulty communicating with peers, limiting impulsive behavior, or completing work on time, you may want to raise questions about those issues as well. Your child may be gifted; at the same time, however, she may have challenges that should be addressed so that her gifts can shine through.